Archive for Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Famous Union Pacific locomotive to steam through Lawrence this weekend

The last locomotive built for the Union Pacific Railroad will make its way through Lawrence on Sunday. The 66-year-old train will not stop in Lawrence.

March 30, 2010


The last steam locomotive built for Union Pacific Railroad will be chugging through the area Sunday.

The 66-year-old No. 844 engine will be expected to steam past the Union Pacific Depot in North Lawrence about 11 a.m.; the locomotive is not scheduled to stop.

The engine will be at The Great Overland Station, 701 N. Kansas Ave. in Topeka, from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., then head east for a 1 p.m. arrival at Union Station in Kansas City, Mo., where the engine is to be on display through 8 p.m. Monday.

“We are always amazed at the number of people who come out to watch it go by — anywhere, in urban areas or in rural areas,” said Mark Davis, a Union Pacific spokesman. “It’s like seeing a dinosaur in a zoo. The steam locomotive represents an age when people traveled by train. … It’s nostalgia that attracts all ages.”

For more information, including a GPS train tracker, visit


riverdrifter 7 years, 10 months ago

It always surprises me is how quiet it is. Sonofagun can flat out boogie, too. It just hisses by and is gone. Have your camera ready.
If they're holding trains for it the dispatcher will want it off his territory real quick and there's no slowing down for shutterbug railfans.

riverdrifter 7 years, 10 months ago

Oops! Might be HER territory. Apologies to MAE!

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 years, 10 months ago

You can find photos of the U.P. 844 on the web, just google that or go to the link in the news article.

Tthe newspaper fails to give much information on the 844, this engine is the last of 3 classes of the last order of 45 steam-powered engines ordered by the Union Pacific. It is the -only steam locomotive in the world that has never been retired from service by it's original owner. No other U.S. mainline railroad has maintained a steam locomotive on it's roster since it was built. It is classified by the Whyte system of steam engine classification as a 4-8-4 "Northern". This class of locomotive represents the ultimate state of the art steam engine, for as it was being built, the diesel-electric locomotive was making inroads on U.S. railroads that would ultimately result in the complete retirement of the fire breathing giants. No further research and development was done on steam locomotion after the middle of the 1930's and World War II streched the final demise of the steam engine.

I hope everyone that wants to see 844 arrive will take their camera and check it out, it is an awesome sight and a part of railroading that will never be again.

The Norfolk and Western Railway was the last U.S. Railroad to retire it's Y6b class steam engines in 1960. It was something that was inevitable, steam engines required much more labor and maintenance than the internal combustian diesel-electric locomotive that we see today, but there is still a few of us old fossils that remember them and traveling by train pulled by a steam locomotive.

Tom McCune 7 years, 10 months ago

Those big steam engines were balanced and rated to run at 120 mph all day long.....

mfagan 7 years, 10 months ago

Hello, frwent and others...

Here's a link to photos, on the Union Pacific site, of No. 844:

If you poke around on the "Media" section of the site, you can find some video, too. There's also some video on YouTube, of the train leaving North Platte, Neb. Pretty cool.

A few other bits of information that I didn't include in the original news item:

-- If you look on the pictures (and video), you may notice two large pieces of black metal at the front of the locomotive, on the sides of the boiler. I'm told those are known as "elephant ears," and their purpose is to direct exhaust up from the stack and into a wind current over the passenger cars. I'm told this looks pretty cool in action.

-- Under optimal running conditions, the exhaust should be pure white. That's how you tell if there's a good fireman on board, because white exhaust means the locomotive is burning the appropriate amount of fuel. If the exhaust is gray or black, that means there's too much fuel being used. Sometimes, on these tours, the fireman intentionally uses too much fuel, because oftentimes spectators want to see the darker exhaust.

-- The locomotive burns recycled oil as fuel. The oil is so thick that it actually needs to be warmed up, so that it can become functional liquid.

-- No. 844 is one of two working steam locomotives in the Union Pacific fleet. The other: No. 3985, described as the world's largest operating steam locomotive. Some perspective: Union Pacific has about 8,400 other locomotives, all diesels.

  • Mark Fagan Transportation reporter

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